As a young child, I recall
receiving an Atlantic Whelk Shell.
“Put it up to your ear,” I was told.
And I heard the roar of the sea.
My eyes lit up with excitement
and my love of the ocean began
or perhaps it was rekindled.
Who’s to know?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * **
Today, I mudlark on seashores
building a treasure trove of magical, mollusk shells,
the ocean’s generous gifts
found strewn on the sand when tides recede.
Waves wash over the powdery beach,
I’m lulled by the ocean’s heartbeat.
I inhale its fishy scent,
taste saltiness on my tongue
Screeches and squawks of sea birds grow,
perhaps warning me away,
as they come to dine
on a fresh feast of mussels, whelks, cockles and more.
Gulls, terns, oystercatchers,
sanderlings and their kin,
race for those delectable delicacies
delivered by the briny deep.
They skitter along the beach
taking flight if I draw too near.
My focus is not on them,
but on what they leave behind.
from Conchs to Clams and Coquinas
each a vacant, discarded home,
distinct in size and shape.
Like hand-crafted sculptures
their fine detailed swirls and ridges,
spirals and open cups of iridescence,
all formed by departed occupants
still seem to pulse with life.
Individual marks and shading,
colours covering the spectrum –
from foam white to squid ink black,
ultramarine to pearlescent pink.
What is their allure –
drawing me to dig my toes into the warm sand,
scanning the beach for my next prize?
Is it simply the ebb and flow
within me –
a biological response
to the moon and the tides?
Am I reconnecting with my life in the womb
where I began my human journey,
free floating my first nine months
in a tiny fetal sea?
Could it be my reptilian brain,
driving this keepsake obsession,
recalling our primordial origins,
our primeval departure from the sea?
I buy bijouterie
created from shells,
wear them as totems
to the ocean, our distant past.
Like a loved one’s ashes
I save them as ancestral relics,
the scent of the sea lingering
in shell-filled jars and bowls.
At home amid my treasures
I hear surf breaking on the shore
gulls calling overhead –
the sea in me restored.
© Wendie Donabie 2022